Rivera, Robert

When we say we are attracting the finest artists of our time to The Trail of Painted Ponies, we have in mind such artists as Robert Rivera, who is arguably the finest gourd painter in the country.

This gifted artist was working as a welder in Los Alamos, New Mexico when providence corrected the course of his life. On a road trip to California, he noticed a field of gourds out the car window. For some reason which he cannot explain, even today, while other people would have driven by without a second thought, the sight of their pale bulbous backs hunkered into the earth seemed to him to be a field of endless possibilities. So he pulled the car over, knocked on the door of the nearby farmhouse, and brought a bunch of gourds home with him.

He wasn’t thinking it would lead to a career change when he painted several of the gourds with Indian motifs and showed them to people at work, who asked if they were for sale. In his mind, painting gourds was still just a hobby when he entered a few art shows and sold out. But at a certain point, when the demand became so great it was hard to keep up with orders, and the passion for expressing himself creatively on these natural forms took on the dimensions of a calling, he made the risky decision to forsake job security and devote himself to his art full-time. Working out of a garage with his wife Linda and their two children who helped clean, prepare and cut the gourds, Robert’s big step paid off. Today he is admired and respected for his artistry by collectors of Southwestern and contemporary art internationally.

A combination of Spanish, Indian and French heritage informs Robert’s designs. From decorative animal images to festively feathered kachina masks, he draws inspiration from many cultures to create his unique vessels which make the leap from craft to fine art. His favorite designs are classic Acoma, Zuni, Hopi and Mimbres, patterns that reflect the timeless character of the different cultures. He does not copy the designs, preferring to personally interpret them, but so deeply connected is Robert to the artistry that went before, that some years back, while attending an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, he was startled to come across a piece of prehistoric pottery, twelve hundred years old, with the exact same design of a gourd that he had painted.

With his Painted Pony – “Anasazi Spirit Horse” - Robert incorporated, with stunning complexity and detail, the black-and-white designs found on Anasazi pottery at Chaco Canyon. The life-size Pony is on display at Distant Drums Gallery in the Albuquerque Airport, and has just been released as a figurine. It is the first in a series of prehistoric designs that Robert intends to create for The Trail of Painted Ponies.

Ponies by Robert Rivera:

  • Anasazi Spirit Horse, an original life-size sculpture.
  • Anasazi Spirit Horse, a collectible figurine inspired by Roberts's original Pony "Anasazi Spirit Horse".
  • Ancient Dreams figurine

Additional Information

New Mexico

Biggest Artistic Influence:
That would have to be the prehistoric pottery designs I saw when I first came to the Southwest, and travelled around to Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde.

Favorite Song:
"Meet Me There". It's an old hymn, and one I have often played on the guitar at church on Sundays.

Favorite Color:
Red and yellow. They are two of the colors that Indian people have traditionally favored in their art. They are also the color of ears of corn.

Favorite Words of Advice:
A verse from the Bible. "That will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee."